A patron who mispronounced a pasta item on the menu at Mamma Zu was denied service last night, moments before being dragged into the men’s room where he was publicly executed for his error, police said.
A suspect, waiter Albert T. Duquesne, was released early this morning and will not be charged with a crime.
Witnesses at the popular Oregon Hill Italian restaurant said they overheard the victim, Michael Kaplan, attempt to order the orecchiette. The pasta dish with meat and cheese was recently reviewed by Style Weekly as being “preposterously gratifying beyond your wildest dreams. If it was a choice between orecchiette and having all four limbs, we’d take the former.”
And that’s exactly what Kaplan received, police say.
While the ear-shaped pasta is pronounced “ora-ketty,” the 36-year-old garbled in his enunciation of the complex term, first calling it “ora-shetty” and shortly after trying “orick-ity” in the restaurant known for its world-class fare and rustic ambiance but extremely low tolerance for ordering-related incompetence.
“The waiter told the man that he was sorry,” said Richmond resident Alice Porter, who was on a romantic candle-lit date at the time, “that they were all out of the orecchiette, taking his time to draw out the word in its proper articulation.”
“It was terrible,” Porter added, noting nearby patrons looked on in horror.
As Kaplan appeared to move on to requesting his backup choice, the osso bucco, Porter said Duquesne stopped taking the order and gazed sternly at the customer, slowly placing the order-taking notepad onto the wooden table.
“It was then that Mr. Kaplan was grabbed by his hair, pulled from the seat, dragged into the men’s bathroom, and killed for his error,” said Police Sgt. T.J. Barr III. “In other words, Mr. Kaplan got what was coming to him.”
Barr said the waiter tied the man’s arms to the brass light fixture on the ceiling and bound his legs to the toilet with metal chains, while two other employees began slowly disemboweling the victim amid his bloody, gargling screams that beseeched of forgiveness. Duquesne loudly and repeatedly pronounced “orecchiette” in the correct manner before ritualistically removing the man’s four limbs and still-beating heart, Barr said.
Other diners, halfway through dishes including the Style-reviewed “exquisite” squid and white beans or the eggplant parmaesan “that we swear must be made on another planet full of five-star Italian chefs” turned their heads on the incident taking place just feet away, police said.
“It was best that we just minded our own business,” Porter said. “Besides, our veal marsala was to die for anyway.”
Kaplan’s death was the third customer execution at Mamma Zu in the past two years. In March 2006, a tourist from Wisconsin was hanged after complaining to the owner that his wine glass was too small and not the proper shape.
Then, two months later, a woman who did not realize the establishment only took cash told the waitress she needed to find an ATM and would “be right back,” but was instead burned at the stake.